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Exploring Kauai's Southern Coast

Exploring Kauai's Southern Coast


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 05/18/2018 17:55:42
Trip Date 08/18/2017  

Destinations | Hawaii | Kauai | Hiking | Driving | Maha'ulepu Beaches | Makauwahi Cave | Hanapepe Town



Before traveling to Hawaii, we had sketched out a preliminary itinerary for our week in Kauai. Today's plan took us to the southern coast of the island. We planned to begin the day with another waterfall hike, leaving time for relaxing at the beach in the afternoon.

If you enjoy exploring, read on for an overview of our day. After reading the information in this post, you will definitely have some decisions to make depending on the type of vehicle you are driving, whether or not you are interested in a cave tour (suggested $10.00 donation) and how much adventure you are willing to take!

Kipu Falls

We began our route with a drive toward Kipu Falls, however we could never find the trailhead. The general vicinity of where we thought it would be was all closed off with barbed wire fencing and had multiple posted "no trespassing" signs. Another Google search brought us this result,"***KIPU FALLS IS CLOSED TO PUBLIC ACCESS - DO NOT GO HERE.***" (Apparently the closure was due to numerous injuries, both minor and serious, as well as some deaths. Yikes!)


Maha'ulepu Beaches: Gillin's Beach

Without the accomplishment of a morning hike, off to an "off the beaten path" beach we went. Getting to Maha'ulepu Beaches was an "on the beaten path" experience as the dirt and gravel road was full of craters (potholes) that Scott ably dodged. I'm quite sure, however, that we really should not have taken the journey without a four wheel drive vehicle. After the extremely bumpy two mile drive (that felt much longer), we found a space to park (nothing flat about the parking area), gathered our beach chairs and walked the short path to the near empty Gillin's Beach. Although not the best beach for swimming, with its golden sand and turquoise blue water, this isolated, remote beach was absolutely beautiful - a slice of heaven on earth.


Relaxing at Gillin's Beach

Relaxing at Gillin's Beach

Makauwahi Cave

While we would have been very happy to spend hours enjoying the serene beauty, we knew that our only opportunity to tour Makauwahi Cave was today before 2:00PM. We weren't sure how easy the cave would be to find, nor how difficult or long the hike would be, so back to the car went our beach gear and off to the cave we went. After crossing a small stream (finally we were wearing proper shoes for water crossings), we came to a trail with "Guide to the Makauwahi Cave Trail" brochures. While the brochure did not have a map, it did have a key to the numbers that were engraved on wooden posts along the trail, and we realized that we were standing midway through the 19 points. We followed the trail until we arrived at 12 - Sinkhole Overlook.


Sinkhole Overlook

Sinkhole Overlook

We then determined that we were in search of 15 - North Cave Entrance, and by process of deduction, found the triangular opening into which we crawled.


North Entrance to Makauwahi Cave

North Entrance to Makauwahi Cave

After the required hands and knees entrance, we were suddenly greeted with a high ceiling cave which led through a natural arch and into the sinkhole which we had previously caught a glimpse of from above. Shortly after our arrival, the Tour Manager, Richard Segan, called us over to the south cave entrance for a free ($10.00 donation recommended) guided tour of Hawaii's largest cave. The tour provided an interesting albeit brief history of the 400,000+ year old cave. Due to the neutral ph level shared with only three other caves in the world, plant and animal fossils in the cave from 10,000 or more years ago were naturally preserved.


Inside Makauwahi Cave

Inside Makauwahi Cave


The Tortoise Project

Before crawling out of the cave, we asked Richard for suggestions of any other lesser known sights to see on Kauai, and two things came to his mind - the Tortoise Project in the adjacent field and a hike through Wai Koa Plantation near Kauai's north shore. We made note of the hike for another day, but immediately went on a successful tortoise hunt. These very large exotic animals were adopted to help control the invasive weeds which would, as a result, help to encourage the growth of native plants.


The Tortoise Project

The Tortoise Project

Maha'ulepu Beaches: Kawailoa Bay Beach & Ha'ula Beach

We returned to our car, and before leaving the immediate area, took another bumpy ride to see the other two beaches that make up Maha'ulepu Beaches - Kawailoa Bay Beach, a great windsurfing spot, and the even more remote Ha'ula Beach, frequented mostly by local fishermen.


Kawailoa Bay Beach & Ha'ula Beach

Kawailoa Bay Beach & Ha'ula Beach

Although we still had many hours until sunset, our memory of the "gates locked after dark" signs posted at the crater filled dirt roads prompted us to make sure we had time to spare. Seat belts on, we braced ourselves for the road well beaten ... why did it seem to last longer on our way out? The good news was that our exit was successful with nothing broken on any of the three of us (Scott, myself or the rental car)!

Koloa Heritage Trail

We had some time before heading further west to Hanapepe Town for the evening, so we bridged the gap by driving a portion of the Koloa Heritage Trail. Of the 14 stops on the 10 mile drive, we had time to make brief stops at:
  • Spouting Horn Park
  • Prince Kuhio Birthplace & Park
  • Hanaka'ape Bay & Koloa Landing
  • Pa'u A Laka - Moir Gardens
  • Poipu Beach Park


Koloa Heritage Trail

Koloa Heritage Trail

In our unsuccessful quest to find Kihahouna Heiau, also on the trail, we came across Ke Kahua O Kaneiolouma, a cultural center under construction with remnants of Koloa, Kaua'i, an ancient Hawaiian village at Poipu.


Ke Kahua O K?neiolouma

Ke Kahua O K?neiolouma


Hanapepe Town Art Walk

While Hanapepe Town was not new to us, Hanapepe Town Art Walk was a new opportunity for us to return to the historic area. After parking, we wandered part way across the Swinging Bridge over Kauai's third largest river, Hanapepe River.


The Swinging Bridge over Hanapepe River

The Swinging Bridge over Hanapepe River

Before returning to our hotel, we wandered up and down the main road listening to the music and browsing at the offerings from various vendors including art and food. We couldn't pass up the chance to sample OnoPops, gourmet popsicles made with all local ingredients ... and I learned that Chocolate Apple Banana was not three flavors combined, but a blend of dark chocolate and apple bananas (the name of a banana grown in Hawaii).


Enjoying  OnoPops at Hanapepe Town Art Walk

Enjoying OnoPops at Hanapepe Town Art Walk

Tips for Navigating to the Maha'ulepu Beaches and Makauwahi Cave

If you have an interest in touring Makauwahi Cave:
  • Tours are offered each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM or by appointment. Our guide, Richard Segan, provided us with his business card and encouraged us to share his telephone (808-212-1710 or 808-634-0605) and e-mail (richardsegan@yahoo.com) contact information.

While the three Maha'ulepu Beaches were different and each beautiful in their own way, there were no paved roads on which to access the beaches nor the Makauwahi Cave:

  • If you are in for a two mile hike each way, you can take the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail starting at Shipwreck's Beach - we met a couple who thoroughly enjoyed their hike.
  • Consider checking into a four wheel drive rental vehicle - although the cost will be higher, there were multiple places on the island where we ended up "off the beaten path"!

Lydgate Beach Park

For a different type of beach experience, check out our post titled "Swimming with Barracudas in Lydgate Pools" for an easy to access beach area located in a large park and perfect for both adults and children.

Beaches on Kauai

What is your favorite beach on the island of Kauai, and what do you enjoy most about that particular beach?




Total Health App steps today: 13,797
Weather:86F Partly Cloudy


Exploring Kauai's Southern Coast



Related Stories  

   Swimming with Barracudas in Lydgate Pools   Swimming with Barracudas in Lydgate Pools

Created On 05/06/2018 20:37:46  
Updated On 08/13/2018 17:52:13
Scheduled On 05/18/2018 17:55:42
Posted On 05/18/2018 17:55:42
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Makauwahi Cave, Koloa, HI, United States
LinkId  SouthCoastKauai
StoryId  1525653466645





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